AN: I GIVE UP. I really have, I gave my beta 6 MONTHS to beta and has she even looked at it? NO! Grumble grumble grumble. Anyway, I have given up on her and found another Beta, luckily for you guys this one is a big fun and so will bug me incessantly about updates, at least, I hope she will. Sorry this is SO incredibly late but I am already working on the next chapter and hope to have it up within the month. I hope you keep reading and liking!
Here you go!
Mother unfroze and swept across the hall to Jessica.
"Jessica, it is so good good to finally meet you," she wrapped Jessica in a hug much to the girl's surprise. "You must be exhausted from travelling. Come I'll introduce you to everyone and get you settled in and we'll all talk at supper. I'm Miranda. That's my husband Oliver, My son James, the butler who took your coat is Gerald, the two maids are Sara and Emily and the one who took your bag is Alexa. Finally, that is our chef Lajorie. James will you take Jessica to her room? It's the one on the second floor west wing." Jessica seemed a little overwhelmed and surprised but there was a sharp look in her eyes. I got the feeling she wouldn't have to ask the names of anyone here again.
"Gladly Mother." I turned to Jessica, bowed and extended my arm. "Miss Jessica would you join me?" Her eyes widened and she bowed back. Had her parents taught her so little before sending her off to this foreign place. They seemed worse than mine.
"Yes, thank you," she walking up to me, took my hand and gave me an uncertain smile. Mother clapped her hands.
"Everyone, dismissed." The servants scuttled off, mother walked in the direction of the library and father towards his study. I took Jessica's hand and led her up the stairs towards the second floor west wing. I pointed out rooms we passed. "On our right is the main parlour, our left, the library. The library is one of the largest rooms in the house. Here is the entrance to the second floor of the west wing." The wings were L shaped. My rooms were close the the main building of the house where as Jessica's would be in the other section of the L. "On the right is the study where we would typically do homework after school, on the left is my bedroom. Now if we turn the corner, on the right is the dojo. It's been in the family for generations. We've always studied martial arts. Father teaches children and so the tradition is passed on. My father has a bad leg so he didn't teach me. And finally on our left is your room." I opened the door to see Alexa putting away the last of Jessica's clothes in the drawers. "This door is your closet, and through here," I opened another door "is your bathroom." Her eyes widened.
`"I get my own bathroom?"
"Of course. With all the trimmings." I said a little affronted. Did she think we wouldn't give the best to our guests? It seemed she heard the subtle tone. She was sharp. Most people don't seem to see through the diplomatic and charming exterior.
"I'm sorry if I offended you" she said. "I'm just used to one communal bathroom. This is so… fancy." She smiled. This smile seemed less scared. More honest and sure of herself. It was a good smile. She had a good posture and smile. The rest is just extra. Within a month I could probably stop her from being such an embarrassment. Probably. Which reminded me. "Alexa, a word please. Miss Jessica, I will escort you to supper at 6. The maids are at your command should you need anything and I am just down the hall should you have any questions." I bowed, and turned to leave.
"James! Before you go!" Jessica cried out. I turned back. "May I call my parents? If so where is a phone?" Such a mundane and obvious need for this girl new to this city and house. I cursed myself for not thinking of it. Mother had asked me to be at my best. Well she would adjust and I would stop having to think about every little thing soon. "Of course. The phone is on your desk. Please feel free to use it." She smiled again. I bowed and left.
"Alexa," I said smiling as I closed the door. "Please see that Jessica is clothed properly for supper." I turned around to leave and get back to my homework.
"But Sir." Alexa whispered fiercely "She doesn't have anything appropriate."
"Pardon?" I asked my back still turned.
"She doesn't have anything appropriate. What she's wearing are her nicest clothes!" 'Oh you had got to be kidding me' I thought. I turned back to Alexa.
"She has no nice clothing. None!?"
"Sir, she's wearing her only skirt she doesn't own a dress and everything else she brought seems to have been made for practicality rather than looks. There's nothing there!" 'How could she own nothing. Were her parents so thoughtless as to send her off with out this basic thing. I don't know HOW I am going to handle this. And then, a solution presented itself to me. It would take a lot of work to complete in time but it would be manageable. And at this point it was my only option.
"What size is she?" I asked Alexa sharply.
"I'm not sure. Why?" Alexa was clearly flustered.
"Just answer the question. If you don't know make an educated guess. What size is she?"
"I'd guess about a 7, sir."
"Thank you. I'll let you know if I need you again." I said and I turned and hurried back to my room. One there I sat down at my desk and called my best friend, Matthew.
"Hello Mat? It's James. May I please speak with Amy. It's important. I'll explain later just please put her on. Thank you." I waited a moment while Matthew transferred the call to his sister a year younger than us.
"Hello, this is Amy speaking." The girl I'd known for most of her life said.
"Hello Amy, it's James. I need your help."
"Really? And what can I do for you."
"I don't really have time to explain but I need a nice dress for a girl by about 5 o'clock. Do you have any ideas?"
"Yes I do. Do you have her size and a picture of her?"
"She's a size seven and I can get one why?" I asked confused.
"Good meet me with the picture at La Fleur Bleue in 30 min. And be ready to explain. I'll see you there." The line when dead. I had to find an excuse to get a picture of Jessica. I grabbed the Polaroid camera my parent's had gotten me and headed to her room.
"Come in," Jessica said. I opened the door to see her in an old t-shirt and jeans. She looked a little confused in to see me.
"Hello, I thought you might want a picture of your new room to show to your parents." I said holding up my camera. "Why don't you go stand in front of the bed while I get some pictures?" She moved to the foot of the bed and smiled. I snapped two quick shots, handed her one with a mumbled explanation and dashed out. She had the strangest look on her face as I dashed out. I ran through the west wing through the central building and bumped into Gerald.
"Gerald there you are! I need the car. Will you bring it out front? It's an emergency."
"Miss Jessica needs new clothes for supper?" Gerald knew everything that happened in the house. It was a fact people quickly got used to. "I readied the car foreseeing this eventuality."
"Thank you! I'll be back as soon as possible." I cried as Gerald handed me my coat and the keys and I ran out to the car.
I pulled up outside La Fleur Bleue 5 minutes early, got out carefully, smoothed my hair and clothes. I checked myself in one of the side mirrors and adjusted a cuff. Finally satisfied with my appearance and smoothed my hair one more time and walked debonairly into the store.
Amy stood at the counter in blue thigh length skirt and white top. At her neck and ears dazzled small sapphires that set off her eyes beautifully. Her thick blond hair was pulled up away from her face in a bun. Her face lighted with a bemused smile as she took in my calm state.
"You have absolutely no idea what to do to you?" Ok perhaps I did not look so calm. "Give me the picture," I handed it over.
"She's size 7," I added. She frowned that funny little frown she always got when she was thinking very very hard about something. I took a careful step backward. What ever happened next I did not want to be in her way. Her eyes sharpened. Her arm snapped out pointing at one of the store girls.
"You," Her finger crooked. "Come here, please" The girl nervously came over to Amy. "I need your long forest green silk dress with the fitted waist and scooped neck in size 7." Amy looked it up. "And I need it now." The girl nodded firmly and scuttled off. "Her hair has a bit of a wave so for tonight you can just have her leave it mostly down. Give me a moment," She reached in her bag and took out a note pad and pen. She scribbled something quickly and handed it to me. "If she has any nice hair things she should pull her hair back with the instructions. Tomorrow you will invite me to come meet her won't you." Amy was always very decisive about things. It was almost impossible to change her mind. Realizing this was a battle I wouldn't win, I nodded. "Good. I'll see you then. Now I have to get home for my supper. I look forward to tea." She smiled and left. Through the stores window I could see her walk to her car. Her driver opened the door and helped her in and she drove off. Amy could be very to the point when she needed to be.
"Sir?" the sales girl said from behind me. I turned and presented my most charming smile. The girl blushed a little. My charm was working its usual magic. Mother had made me take so many girls out in the part three years that I knew all the right steps. I walked up, put my elbow on the counter and leaned close.
"Yes?" I said, honey dripping from the word. Her blush deepened.
"The dress is ready" I took out my credit card and handed it to her. The transactions completed I
took the box in one hand and with the other caressed her cheek. Her eyes fluttered closed and a small gasp escaped her lips. The same steps worked every time. I let my hand drop, took my card and left.
I got home at 5 and hurried up to my room. I removed the tag and made sure the dress was ready to be presented. I closed the box carefully and headed over to Jessica's room.
"Miss Jessica?" I called knocking.
"Come in!" I opened the door and walked in to see Jessica on the phone. She held up her finger and mouthed 'One sec', her eyes apologetic. "Yes Dad, I'll be careful. No Dad, I won't let myself get hurt. Yes, I remember the order. Yes, they are a little strange so formal and all but James is here right now and so I need to leave. I love you lots and give my love again to mom. Dad! Bye," she hung up. "Sorry" she said "Parents, you know?" Had she been on the phone since I left? And parents? I have never been able to speak to my parents so freely and I could not remember the last time either of my parents had said 'I love you' or 'Be careful' with such tenderness. Perhaps her parents weren't so bad. This girl was different from any other person I had ever met and and her strangeness kept throwing me off. She had a different rhythm and I would have to learn new steps. A strange new dance. I wondered if I'd ever be able to learn the tune. She cocked her head waiting for me to speak.
"A gift from the family, Miss." I said proffering the box. I wondered how she would take it.
"Just Jessica, please," She said taking the box from me.
"That would not be proper," I told her. "And publicly you should call me Mr James." She looked at me confused. This was obviously not how she was used to working. She'd figure it out eventually.
"When we're alone then, please call me me Jessica, or Jess even," there was an emphasis on the word please. She honestly wanted me to break social conventions "And may I call you James?" her eyes dropped "I'm not used to this," She was uncomfortable with all this formality, I realized, and was looking for something familiar. My mother's words echoed through my head.
"Of course," I said in full on charming mode. It was my default state. No one seemed to mind it. She smiled, relieved and opened the box. Her smile was so open and honest. It seemed to come from honest emotion and not hiding anything. It was a different smile from any I'd seen in quite a while. It was...nice. Her eyes widened at the sight of the dress.
"Perhaps you'd care to wear it to supper?" I suggested hope seeping into my words.
"Of course!" She said her smile broadening. "It's gorgeous" She glanced at the clock. 5:15 "Eep it's later than I thought!" she said.
"I'll come escort you to supper at 5:45: I told her as I bowed and left. I carefully walked down the hand, opened my door and collapsed on my bed. This girl was such a hassle. How much more of this could I take. She couldn't talk properly or dress properly. She was completely alien. I'd have to talk to mother about getting her a new wardrobe. She couldn't keep wearing what she had now. Well after tomorrow I'd have Mat and Amy to help me. School might not be a complete disaster with the three of us to watch her. Wearily I got up and glanced at my unfinished chemistry homework. I finished the question I had been working on at 2 and got up to get changed. I'd finish the rest tonight. That meant not practising tonight which was annoying but I had to stay ahead of the class. Mother and Father wanted me to and I didn't want to let them down. Sighing I went to collect Jessica.
"Come in," she said when I knocked. She turned around, her cheeks a little pink . It looked good on her.
"Shall we to supper then?" She asked. I nodded in turn and offered my arm. Incredibly, she placed her's correctly. At my look of quickly suppressed astonishment she said "My parents did have time to teach me a few things before I left."
We left her bedroom closing the door behind us. We walked through the west wing, down the main stairs, to the dining room. I opened the door to see my parents waiting and all the table ware set out beautifully as always. I heard Jessica take in a small breath and realized, to my utter dismay, that she wouldn't even know how to eat.